Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks about free speech in modern society during a presentation Tuesday evening on the Port Angeles campus of Peninsula College. (Keith Thorpe / Peninsula Daily News)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks about free speech in modern society during a presentation Tuesday evening on the Port Angeles campus of Peninsula College. (Keith Thorpe / Peninsula Daily News)

If Jay Inslee leaves governor job, AG Bob Ferguson may run

In the meantime, he says he has donated to Inslee’s presidential campaign.

By Paul Gottlieb / Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson will decide if he will run for governor after Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat now running for president, announces his own intentions.

Ferguson, like Inslee, is up for re-election to a third term in 2020, and is “not ruling anything out,” he said in an interview Tuesday evening before his Law Day presentation at Peninsula College’s Little Theater.

“I will decide when the time is right to make a decision,” he said, adding he has donated to Inslee’s presidential campaign.

“When he makes a decision, I’ll make mine.”

Inslee was polling Wednesday at 0.6 percent among Democratic presidential candidates in a www.realclearpolitics.com average of national polls.

Inslee trailed behind Joe Biden’s 32.8 percent followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro and Tulsi Gabbard in RCP average list.

Ferguson said state lawmakers passed six of about 12 bills he proposed in the recently concluded state legislative session.

He highlighted two that were gun-related.

One was a law banning the manufacture or possession of untraceable, undetectable guns that puts restrictions on 3-D printable guns that was approved by lawmakers.

The other, banning high-capacity gun magazines, was a vote shy of passage in the Senate, Ferguson said.

Ferguson presented “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” in a lecture sponsored by Clallam-Jefferson Pro Bono Lawyers, before an audience of about 100 who cheered his legal efforts against President Donald Trump.

Ferguson has filed or made the state of Washington a party to 35 lawsuits against the Trump administration in the 27 months since Trump was inaugurated, compiling a 22-0 record with 10 of those under appeal, Ferguson said.

Staff members who work on the lawsuits are paid with settlement and award money from those legal actions, not from the general fund, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said in an interview that he filed two lawsuits against Barack Obama’s administration.

He has filed so many lawsuits against the current president “because the Trump administration is so lackadaisical about following the rule of law,” he said.

During his presentation, Ferguson said a common notion in the U.S. might be that “what’s happening now is the worst it’s ever been.

“Much of our dialogue is driven by the person who occupies the White House,” he said.

He cited Trump’s Feb. 17, 2017, tweet, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

He contrasted that with a quote from a 1787 letter by Thomas Jefferson.

The nation’s third president and a drafter of the Declaration of Independence wrote, “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Ferguson said history shows several examples of periods in America when freedoms were eroded, albeit temporarily.

He cited the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, anti-syndicalism laws of the early 1900s that led to the arrest of Seattle members of the International Workers of the World for alleged “disloyalty,” and the Espionage and Sedition Acts of World War I, which outlawed “abusive” language about the government.

Ferguson said “the Trump era” has created a challenging atmosphere for press freedom.

Calling himself “a glass-half full kind of guy,” Ferguson cited CNN’s successful challenge in court to the Trump administration’s revocation of White House reporter Jim Acosta’s press credential.

“Independent journalism has been, I think, a strong buffer against the excesses of this administration, and this is an example,” he said.

He acknowledged that newspapers are financially challenged but that online news outlets such as those run by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico have seen an exponential growth in users.

“It is a vibrant, free press that we have,” Ferguson said.

“President Trump may end up saving American journalism for a generation, indirectly of course.

“Those institutions — free press, freedom of speech, independent judiciary — are stronger that any one individual.

“History shows that over time.”

During a 30-minute question-and-answer session, Ferguson said he does not watch Fox News, as he does not have cable TV at home. He tripped over the network’s name and calling it “Trump News” to his own laughter and that of the audience.

Questioners focused their queries on the impact of social media such as Twitter and Facebook on speech in general and hate speech in particular.

Ferguson referred to “governing by Tweet” employed by Trump.

“We literally have litigation against the administration that involves whether or not some of his statements on Twitter constitute a policy or not,” Ferguson said.

“When he says we are going to do X, right? Where we have now adopted X, is that a policy adoption or not?

“That’s actually a very serious question, an unusual question, on what does that mean from a governing standpoint.”

This story originally appeared in the Peninsula Daily News, a sibling paper to the Herald.

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